For divorcing and separating parents, few issues involve more emotional investment than seeking to secure the custody or visitation rights you desire. You want what is best for your children, and you want to make sure that they have every possible opportunity to succeed while growing up in a safe, nurturing, and comfortable environment. But, if you and your co-parent have different ideas about what life should look like for your children after your divorce or separation, establishing a parenting plan can present difficult challenges that require the help of an experienced family law attorney.
At Bolan Law Group, we bring decades of experience to representing parents in custody matters throughout the greater Tacoma area. While custody disputes most commonly arise in the context of a divorce or dissolution, our attorneys have significant experience representing clients with other family circumstances, as well. We bring the same personalized and compassionate approach to every situation we handle. If you need a divorce lawyer for a custody matter in Washington, we can help. Call us to discuss your options today.
Technically, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are relics of the past in Washington. Today, Washington’s family law code eschews these terms in favor of the concept of a “parenting plan” – an arrangement between separated parents that is intended to provide for the physical care and emotional stability of the child.
However, terminology aside, establishing a parenting plan involves much the same process as establishing custody and visitation rights in other states. Each parent can have decision-making authority (legal custody) and residential provisions (physical custody); and, while the courts generally favor parenting plans that involve both parents, one parent can be awarded sole decision-making authority and exclusive residential rights under appropriate circumstances.
As with the division of community property and establishment of maintenance and child support, parents can establish a parenting plan without court involvement. However, all parenting plans must adhere to the relevant legal requirements, and all parenting plans are ultimately subject to court approval. Whether parents are able to negotiate a parenting plan or must pursue their desired parenting rights in court, some of the key factors that will guide the establishment of their parenting plan in Washington include:
- The “strength, nature, and stability” of the children’s relationships with their parents;
- Any agreement among the parents regarding residential provisions for each child;
- Each parent’s “past and potential future performance of parenting functions,” including involvement in day-to-day childrearing;
- The parents’ wishes;
- The children’s wishes, provided that the children are “sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences;” and,
- Each parent’s work schedule.
She did not stop once court was over, she continued to assist in the never ending loose ends.- Amanda
Are minors required to testify in court?
Any person who is “competent” to testify, whether or not they are a minor, can be required to testify in court. Competence generally means that the person understands the difference between truth and falsehood and understands the duty to tell the truth. Competency also requires that a person have personal knowledge of the topics about which they are called to testify.Even though children may be competent and qualified to testify in court, many courts look unfavorably on children testifying. This is especially true in family law cases. Calling a child to testify in a family law case often involves asking the child to testify against a parent, which is not in the best interest of a child.
What constitutes a “severe economic hardship” in a child support case?
The term “severe economic hardship” can be relevant in child support cases in a few different circumstances. If a parent or child is experiencing a severe economic hardship, that can be a basis for the court to modify an order of child support. Economic hardship to the parent receiving child support may be a factor in determining how much the other parent is required to pay. Also, economic hardship may be a basis for the court to increase child support in steps, as opposed to all at once.
There is no exact definition of economic hardship. It is a condition that depends on the specific circumstances of each case. However, if an economic hardship is self-created, it likely will not be a basis to modify child support or use a graduated increase. Self-created hardships may include voluntarily quitting a job or reducing work hours to part time. On the other hand, involuntary financial situations, such as a medical emergency or layoff, may be a basis for modification of child support.
Can spousal maintenance (or alimony) be changed after the divorce decree is entered?
Yes, unless the decree specifically states that the obligation to pay spousal support (or alimony) is non-modifiable. This obligation will only be changed by the court after entry of the decree in exceptional circumstances. This may include a drastic and unexpected change in income of either party or that one party failed to disclose assets in the divorce process.
What constitutes domestic violence, and what can I do about it?
Domestic violence is defined as (a) physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as of one family or household member by another family or household member.
“Family or household members” includes, but is not limited to, spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, former domestic partners, persons who have a child in common, adults related by blood or marriage, adults who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, and people who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, you can seek a domestic violence protection order. The order may restrain the respondent from having any contact with you; from coming to your home or workplace; from coming within a certain distance of you, your home, or workplace; and/or from harassing, stalking, or keeping you under surveillance. In Pierce County, you can apply for a protection order in Room 108 of the Pierce County Superior Court, at the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, or at a domestic violence kiosk. More information can be found here.